Considering the amount of snow we typically see in Massachusetts and pretty much all of New England, I thought I would address the responsibility of landlords to remove snow and ice from their properties. Is this a new topic for discussion? No; but we’re about to get hit with a major storm this coming weekend so the relevance is greater now than it has been all winter.
Are you familiar with Papadopoulos vs. Target Corporation?
If you are having trouble sleeping you can check out the facts of the case on Scribd here – http://www.scribd.com/doc/34891739/Mass-SJC-Ruling-In-Papadopoulos-v-Target-Corporation
The short and sweet is that a person parked their car next to a median and went into the store to shop. When they returned to their car, they slipped on a patch of ice alongside the median that was left by a snow plow and fell. They sued Target and the judge ruled in their favor.
The laws have changed but the liability is still on the Landlord
According to Richard Howe, an attorney in L owell MA, “Since the late 1800s, the law (found in court decisions, not legislative statutes) has been that a land owner owes a duty to safe guard people on his property from injuries caused by “unnatural” accumulations of snow and ice, but has no duty regarding the “natural” accumulation of snow and ice…”
What does all this even mean? It means that until recently there was a chance that if ice formed on your property and somebody fell, there was an argument to be made that you weren’t responsible if the ice formed “naturally”. As long as an effort was made to keep the property clear of snow and ice, you can’t be expected to take care of every single ice patch, can you???
Well no longer do landlords have this defense. The Massachusetts SJC has decided that property owners ie. landlords are responsible for every inch of snow and ice on their property.
Invest in some tools or hire it out. Just make sure it gets done.
Now you may or may not be a landlord, but I am. I own several properties and I pay a lot of money for insurance, have a plow on my truck, I have shovels at every property, buckets of sand at every entrance, etc…and I spend a lot of time making sure walkways are clear, ice is melted, and snow is removed. Why? Because it’s just what I’m supposed to do. I don’t care about Popadopa-whoever he is v. Target…Anybody can sue anybody at anytime for any reason…
If you’re a landlord buy a shovel, buy a pickup truck with a plow, and buy some sand and/or salt. If you don’t want to do that, hire somebody with the above mentioned tools and supplies and pay them a lot of money to make sure they make sure your property is safe for your tenants.
Rich Vetstein blogged about this on the Massachusetts Real Estate Law Blog and I’m sure if you google the topic you can find endless pages on this topic.
Do you want your tenant to become your landlord?
My advice to landlords as I mentioned above…don’t worry about what the law is or isn’t. Just do the right thing and remove the snow and ice. Will it cost you a bit more possibly if it’s a big storm like what we’re about to experience? Maybe but if you’re like me you probably don’t want one of your tenants to soon be your landlord when they fall on a patch of ice and sue you for everything you have.
Do you have any other questions about multi-family investments in Massachusetts?
I’ve been a landlord for over 10 years and I’ve seen a lot, I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve made just about every mistake you can think of. One thing I know is there is always going to be more to learn, more mistakes to make, and more stories to share. Please share your experiences below or let me know if there are other topics you’d like me to address.
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